UN experts call on Houthis to release Bahai prisoners

The 22 prisoners included eight women and a minor

Members of the Baha'i faith hold flowers as they demonstrate outside a state security court during a hearing in the case of a fellow Baha'i man charged with seeking to establish a base for the community in Yemen, in the country's capital Sanaa April 3, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah - GF10000369865
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A panel of experts from the UN on Wednesday called on Wednesday upon the de facto authorities of the Houthis in Sanaa to immediately release a dozen Baha’i minority members being prosecuted for unfair charges.

On September 15, criminal proceedings were initiated against 24 individuals, including at least 22 who are from the Baha’i minority. Of those 22 are eight women and a minor.

“The defendants were not investigated nor were they informed by the prosecution of the pending charges against them prior at the start of the trials,” the report of the UN experts stated.

“The charges include apostasy, the teaching of the Baha’i faith, and espionage, the latter punishable with the death penalty if convicted,” it continued.

“We are very concerned at the criminal prosecution of these persons based on charges connected to their religion or belief,” the UN experts said. “We are particularly concerned that some of the charges include crimes that carry the death penalty.”

On September 29, five of the indicted individuals, who remain in detention, appeared before the court.

The judge ordered that the names of the remaining 19 indicted individuals be published in a local newspaper, according to the report.

The spokesperson of the Baha'i minority in Yemen, Abdullah Al Oylofi, told The National in a phone call that international pressure on the Houthis in the civil war should not prevent the release of the innocent people of the Baha'i minority as soon as possible.

"We have knocked all the official and the tribal doors in Yemen to end the oppression against the Baha'is by the Houthis but no use so far,” Mr Al Oylofi said

"The Houthis exploited their control over the institutions of the judiciary to exterminate the Baha'is in Yemen, counting on fabricated charges and unfair allegations claiming that the Baha'i is a Zionist movement driven by Israel and America," he added.

"The Baha’i minority exists in many countries all over the world. Mo state has complained or claimed that this minority has any kind of relationship with Israel over the last 150 years.”